Spurgeon on balancing joy and solemnity in worship

Two kinds of worshippers often show up at church on any given Sunday: those who believe the worship of God requires solemness and seriousness and no show of emotion versus those who believe in expressions of great joy, raising of hands, maybe even shouting. In his commentary on Psalm 95, Spurgeon says there should be a balance of both.

It is to be feared that very much even of religious singing is not unto the Lord but unto the care of the congregation: above all things we must in our service of song take care that all we offer is with the heart’s sincerest and most fervent intent directed toward the Lord himself. Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. With holy enthusiasm let us sing, making a sound which shall indicate our earnestness; with abounding joy let us lift up our voices, actuated by that happy and peaceful spirit which trustful love is sure to foster.
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We should shout as exultingly as those do who triumph in war, and as solemnly as those whose utterance is a psalm. It is not always easy to unite enthusiasm with reverence, and it is a frequent fault to destroy one of these qualities while straining after the other. The perfection of singing is that which unites joy with gravity, exultation with humility, fervency with sobriety. The invitation given in the first verse (Ps 95:1) is thus repeated in the second (Ps 95:2) with the addition of directions, which indicate more fully the intent of the writer. One can imagine David in earnest tones persuading his people to go up with him to the worship of Jehovah with sound of harp and hymn, and holy delight. The happiness of his exhortation is noteworthy, the noise is to be joyful; this quality he insists upon twice. It is to be feared that this is too much overlooked in ordinary services, people are so impressed with the idea that they ought to be serious that they put on the aspect of misery, and quite forget that joy is as much a characteristic of true worship as solemnity itself.

2 Replies to “Spurgeon on balancing joy and solemnity in worship”

  1. This is such an important topic that is not discussed much. The only answer one keeps hearing for why it must be hymns only & solemn faces looking sad…is ‘tradition’
    I’m yet to hear anybody provide scriptures as to why we SHOULD NOT clap, sing joyfully & raise our hands if moved to do so …during singing in corporate worship. There is an overwhelming resistance to joy in reformed circles as though joyfulness during worship is sinful & sadness is sacred & holy. Something is wrong with this picture & Spurgeon identified it correctly in his time & it’s still an issue today.
    Worship in songs, hymns & spiritual songs…worship in spirit & in truth…this seems to be the only criterion in the new testament…all these other things that control us are man’s traditions. There is a time to cry & a time to laugh & be happy…God is in it ALL

  2. In response to Little Sheep’s statement that the only answer given why we should not clap, etc, while worshipping, is “tradition” I would offer that the correct answer is instead that we have no biblical authority to do so in the new testament.
    Everything we do in worship should be according to God’s will and we are given a full account of His will. We are to sing praises unto His name. Nowhere are we taught to clap or hum, etc.
    I believe in the completeness of God’s word and I respect His authority and instruction.
    We should all give respect to God’s will and sing joyfully to Him.

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